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Saturday, 20 January 2018


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David, reading Mr. Barton's obit, I see where he had studied the speech and accent used by Southern Appalachian people of the American Inland South as the best guide for actors attempting the style of Shakespeare's time. This would make sense because until a few decades ago, this deeply mountainous region was difficult to reach and navigate and planning was essential if an outside wanted to drive to the region.

My late Mother in Law was born and raised "way back there" in 1906. All her family and those who lived in her valley by the river were from Wales, England and Scotland. Accent and folk ways still are found there.

You are spot on, Whiters. It has long been recognised, and confirmed by the remarkable David and Ben Crystal, pere et fils, that the closest we can get to hearing Shakespeare's words in Shakespeare's voice is to be found in the Appalachians. Mind you, there are still hints of it to be found in 'deepest, darkest Zummerzet' if you listen hard enough!

I didn't know this. Very interesting. A good actor can make Shakespeare's sometimes difficult text so much clearer. I remember Paul Scofield playing Richard III, which was an enlightenment.

Mike, it is double difficult to make his words clear today not just because meanings as well as pronunciation have altered but also because an actor needs to understand and work out the underlying rhythm of iambic pentameter. For the uninitiated listener to a Shakespeare play my advice is to relax and just let the words flow over you. Gradually, and particularly if the actor/director 'suits the action to the words', your brain will tune itself in to the meaning.

It can be like a revelation, can't it? The dry text suddenly takes on life and meaning - rather like a musician realising a piece of music.

iambic pentameter

I always thought that was a sort of ancient Greek galley. Must broaden my horizons.

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